CULTURAL HERITAGE OF GORJ COUNTY
Gorj County features one of the richest and most fascinating cultural heritages in Romania, dominated by the grand work and memory of Constantin Brancusi, the father of modern sculpture, but also holding some other treasures, with inspiring monasteries, interesting museums and beautiful monuments.
The county of Gorj offers a remarkable artistic heritage, starting with the universal masterpiece created by Constantin Brancusi in the city of Targu Jiu. Besides the Heroes Path Monumental Complex, comprised by The Endless Column, The Gate of Kiss and The Table of Silence, Gorj also offers several other artistic monuments of travel interest: the modern sculptures of Targu Jiu, the statues and memorial monuments of Targu Jiu.
There are hundreds of historical monuments in Gorj County, buildings and houses that exhibit interesting or valuable architectural features. Most of them are located in the urban setting of Targu Jiu, although there are also many in the villages of Gorj. Amongst others, travelers should see the historical building in the center of Targu Jiu and Targu Carbunesti, the architectural ensembles of Targu Jiu and Balteni, the unique cula houses.
MUSEUMS & MEMORIALS
Gorj County features several extremely interesting museums and memorial houses, presenting different aspects from the past and everyday life of its inhabitants. From the stunning Traditional Architecture Museum of Curtisoara to the fascinating History Museum of Gorj and from the Memorial House of Constantin Brancusi to the Wooden Crosses Museum, there are plenty of destinations showing the culture, history and traditions.
MONASTERIES & CHURCHES
With several impressive monasteries that combine the religious, historical and architectural significance with splendid locations, with secluded hermitages on solitary mountain peaks and century old inspiring churches, Gorj County offers plenty of wondrous religious sites. Among the most interesting, visitors should see the Tismana, Lainici and Pologragi monasteries, the churches of Targu Jiu and the splendid rural wooden churches.
Heroes Path Monumental Complex
The masterpiece of sculptor Constantin Brancusi is located in the city of Targu Jiu, the capital of Gorj County, comprising a series of monumental modern sculptures built on an axis that crosses the city from east to west. The Endless Column, the Gate of the Kiss and the Table of Silence, the last two being linked by the Chairs Alley, form the “Heroes Path”, one of the most important and valuable artistic complex in the world, created in 1937-1938 by the sculptor who was born in a peasant family from a village not far from Targu Jiu. The Heroes Path monumental complex can be freely visited by anyone, being part of the city heritage. Located on an axis which divides the city of Targu Jiu east-west for about 1 km, this attraction is definitely the most interesting cultural site in Gorj County and maybe even this part of Romania, considered by many as the most important work of the Brancusi. The first part of this Path is located in the central park of the city, on the banks of Jiu River. From there, it continues through the center of Targu Jiu, reaching the Endless Column Park, in the eastern side. It can easily be visited for free and on foot, starting from either point.
Trying to discern the symbols and deeper meanings behind these masterpieces has been a difficult task along the years, as each person understands something else about what drove Constantin Brancusi to create this modern wonder. Each visitor usually admires the simple architecture of the three main works, envisioning the main artistic line behind their creation as a complex. What is unquestionable about this majestic masterpiece is that is universal, having the same value over time and space, the column continuing to be endless forever and for anyone, the gate will always signify eternal love and communion. Inspired from the traditional rural art and architecture of Romanian villages, Brancusi has succeeded into creating the perfect form, a natural art that seems to have deep roots into the ground. Starting in the Central Park of Targu Jiu, right on the bank of the river Jiu, the first monument of Heroes Path Complex is the Table of Silence, many art critics even considering the river as a part of the Heroes Path monumental complex. The central table is surrounded by twelve small chairs spread around in a symmetrical and circular fashion. While the table is a perfect cylinder, the chairs are clepsydrae disposed at equal distance from the table and between themselves. Signifying time and contemplation, this monument impresses with its dimensions and symmetry, offering a pleasant and almost perfect equilibrium to the eye. The Chairs’ Alley continues the axis and links the Table of Silence to the Gate of the Kiss.
The Gate of the Kiss is located at the entrance of the park towards the city, having the green nature behind and bustling streets ahead. The stylized symbol of the kiss has been a recurrent theme of Constantin Brancusi throughout his life, trying to reach the minimal shapes and forms to convey a man and a woman sharing a kiss. The gate itself resembles a triumphal arch of sorts, although at a smaller scale, with two columns that hold the stylized kiss symbol on all sides, united by another horizontal column of perfect proportions, creating a unique blank space underneath, where lovers stop for kiss every now and then.Passing through the city centre, the axis follows the Heroes Path street, until reaching the Column Park where the Endless Column stands tall, creating a veritable stairway to heaven. The whole complex cannot be decomposed in singular monuments, as it has to be perceived as Brancusi intended, a whole that gives a deeper meaning than the architectural and artistic value of its parts. The Column is made of cast iron and rises almost 30 meters from the ground, formed by 16 angular clepsydra elements. By cutting in half the first and last element, the monument seems to grow from the ground and continue forever towards the sky, creating a link between the living and the departed.
Tismana Monastery is one of the most important religious, historical and architectural monuments of Gorj County, also being among the most impressive Romanian Orthodox monasteries. Located in an idyllic natural spot, perched on a rock over the Tismana River valley, the monastic complex is protected by mountains and features a small waterfall beneath. Surrounded by forests and with the tall peaks of the Carpathian Mountains in the distance, the monastery creates the impression of a fortress, with strong walls surrounding the inner courtyard. The monastery of Tismana is located in the town with the same name, about 5 km north from the center, along the river valley towards the mountains. Tismana is roughly 30 km west of Targu Jiu, the capital of Gorj County, along the 67D national road, then following the modern road across town heading north. The setting of Tismana Monastery is truly stunning, built on top of a small rocky plateau above the river valley and with a small waterfall falling from the monastery walls to the river. Visiting the monastery is free, but proper dress code is advisable.
There are few historical accounts as to the foundation of the Tismana Monastery and although the first documents to attest it are from 1385, it could be a little older, to the times that a famous monk known as Nikodemus the Pious lived in the area, founding several other monasteries. The monastery itself is built in Byzantine style, with thick stone and brick walls. From its beginnings in the 14th century, each new era brought modifications and extensions with a tower bell, sanctums for the nuns, paintings and other features. Even the rulers of Wallachia considered the monastery an important spiritual and strategic point, along the years being sacked by the Turkish or transformed in a military establishment by the Austrians, many valuable artifacts being lost or destroyed in those times. Although restored and renovated starting with 1844, some of its important authentic features were lost forever under a new layer of modifications that were unsuitable. Inside the complex, along various rooms for the nuns and other activities, there is a beautiful brick chapel, as well as a small museum that shows interesting documents and historical accounts about the monastery. The main church of Tismana Monastery is a truly fascinating architectural masterpiece, although its original shape has been damaged by modern intrusions. A truly significant value holds the original paintings from late 16th century which can still be seen in the narthex, representing the oldest Byzantine paintings in country. One of the most important moments in the history of the monastery happens during World War II, when the whole thesaurus of the National Bank of Romania has been hidden in the small cave located next to the monastery. In total, there were about 380 tons of golden ingots, together with 3 tons of gold from the Polish Thesaurus, moved here to protect it from the Russian Army. Today, the Tismana Monastery is one of the most important and interesting in Romania, presenting a fascinating history, enchanting architecture and a beautiful location. Near the monastery, up a charming mountain path, visitors can also reach two secluded hermitages where several nuns live in perfect communion with nature.
Traditional Architecture Museum
The Traditional Architecture Museum of Gorj County is located at about 12 km north of Targu Jiu, the capital of Gorj County, in the village of Curtisoara that is part of Bumbesti-Jiu town. Following the national and European road out of Targu Jiu to the north, take road 665 for about 2 km and the museum will be on the left side. The location is extremely peaceful and quiet, before the entrance in Curtisoara village, with beautiful views of the mountains to the north. The museum is open all days except Monday, from 9 am to 5 pm. Entry fee is about 1-2 € for adults.
The fascinating Traditional Architecture Museum of Gorj County has been created around an important historical monument, the “Cula” of Curtisoara and its complex. “Cula” is a specific fortified house traditional to the region of northern Oltenia, only several of these buildings still being preserved. Starting with 1966-1968, this complex was restored and a traditional art collection was organized there. The museum eventually expanded and instead of just a few rural houses, it brought together more than two dozen buildings from around Gorj County, transferred in this space and restored. The present museum was opened in 1975 and contains unique treasures of traditional architecture of Gorj County, old wooden houses, churches, mills and other constructions that once existed in the countryside. Some of the most important and interesting landmarks of the Traditional Architecture Museum of Gorj County include unique constructions with architectural, historical, cultural and religious value. The “Cula” if Curtisoara is a strong building with 1-meter-thick walls, two stories and defensive features. The back side has a small tower accessible by a covered bridge. The complex of Curtisoara also includes an old church with beautiful old frescoes that depict Heaven and Hell in the vision of peasant artists. Another highlight of the museum is the “Gheorghe Tatarescu” architectural complex that includes a beautiful cula building, a guest house, a splendid small chapel and several other annexes. Most of the other buildings are exceptionally well preserved or restored wooden houses, charming homes that were once full of life. Overall, the Traditional Architecture Museum of Gorj County is one of the few places in Romania and Europe where the past of village life can still be felt and admired. The different constructions are spread over a clearing with trees and a small river passing through. This creates a pleasant atmosphere and offers travelers an unforgettable cultural experience.
Set in the most enchanting natural environments imaginable, right in the middle of the mountains along the splendid Jiu Defile, Lainici Monastery is an architectural and historical treasure by all accounts. It is a place where spirituality has endured for centuries, surrounded the wilderness of a natural park and always accompanied by the Jiu River and the road carved alongside through the mountains. It is also a resting place for wandering travelers, midway through the spectacular defile, a destination that perfectly blends belief and beauty. Lainici Monastery is situated in Gorj County, along the beautiful Jiu Defile and inside the National Park of the same name. It is located along the DN66 National Road and E81 European Road, about 32 km north of Targu Jiu and around 7 km from the entrance inside the wild defile. The monastery is right beside the road, on the right side going north, with easy access by car or train. Visiting the monastery if free, but dress code should be appropriate.
There are no documents or proofs regarding the beginnings of the Lainici Monastery, although it is believed the Nikodemus the Pious was the one that started the establishment of religious life here, the same as Tismana Monastery. During the persecution of the Orthodox religion by the empress Maria Theresa of Habsburg, Lainici Monastery was destroyed along with many monasteries of Transylvania. The rebirth starts with the year 1784, when there were around 30 monks living at Lainici. At the beginning of the 19th century, noblemen from Targu Jiu built the church of the Lainici Monastery, today known as the “Old Church”. During the Revolution of 1821, the leader of the rebels Tudor Vladimirescu hid at the monastery dressed as a monk to evade the Turkish army. During the First World War, Lainici Monastery was devastated when German troops even went inside the church with their horses, the documents archive was burnt, the cemetery profaned and many religious artifacts stolen or lost.
Monastery life was reintroduced in 1929, to be abandoned again during the Communism Era between 1961 and 1970. In 1990 began the construction of the new, larger church, a veritable cathedral built on two levels, with an underground church dedicated to the old saints and the upper level dedicated to saints from the time of the persecutions to the present. Both churches feature a traditional architectural style from Wallachia, preserving precious religious artifacts, including a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary brought from Mount Athos and relics of the Eastern saints. The whole complex of Lainici Monastery is surrounded by strong stone walls, while the thundering Jiu River passes nearby. Lainici Monastery is caught between two wild and tall mountain ridges, broken apart across millennia by the wild Jiu River. It benefits from the unique mix of a perfect location along an important European Road and its location inside an astonishing National Park. Surrounded by thick mountain woods on all sides, it appears a peaceful heaven amidst the unchained forces of nature. Close to the monastery, travelers can reach the secluded Locurele Hermitage following a 1-hour hiking path, while a little further up the road, a uniquely shaped rock formation resembles a sphinx.
Art and Architecture of Targu Jiu
Targu Jiu, the capital and biggest city of Gorj County holds a rich cultural heritage, a wealth of architectural and artistic monuments. Although dominated by the masterpieces of Constantin Brancusi, the destination has several other highlights, splendid buildings and works of art that make for excellent attractions. The old houses and buildings, beautiful sculptures and statues, as well as other architecture and art landmarks of Targu Jiu form a complete cultural experience. Overall, the city of Targu Jiu can be regarded as a fascinating cultural destination, a city of sculpture following the memory and legacy of Constantin Brancusi. Most of the historical monuments date from the second half of the 19th and first half of the 20th century.
Modern Sculptures of Targu Jiu
Targu Jiu has become an artistic destination over the years, after Constantin Brancusi created the stupendous “Heroes Path” Monumental Complex. The tradition has been continued and the city has gained world-wide recognition for sculptors and artists. Each year starting from 2001, an International Sculpture Symposium is being held in Gorj County, the most representative works being displayed in various parks and spaces of Targu Jiu, creating a veritable open air museum. Over the years, renowned artists from around the world come to Targu Jiu and to honor the memory of Brancusi and create their masterpieces. Among many others, some of the sculptures that can be admired today in Targu Jiu include: Waters Gate – Tatsumi Sakai, Totem – Juan Carlos Lisana Careno, Continuity – Petre Marian, Toaca – Ilarion Voinea, The Beautiful Japanese – Akihira Sakai, Marine Symbol – Iorgos Iliopoulus. Beyond their purpose of embellishing the look of the city, the sculptures as a whole also have an immense artistic value.
“Baniei” Architectural Complex
The landmark is located in the northern part of Targu Jiu, several kilometers from the center, a little walk from the Ecaterina Teodoroiu Blvd. The architectural complex is also known as the “Baniei Fortress”, is a lesser known but important cultural attraction. The historical monuments include the House of Cornea Brailoiu, a beautiful church, the outside walls, the stables and a little chapel. The complex features a splendid Brancovenesc architectural style, being built around 1700 and restored throughout its existence. The House of Cornea Brailoiu is a massive structure with two levels and 1-meter-thick walls, sustained by two large columns. After the death of the noblemen, it changed property and various modifications have changed its initial look, some of them reducing the architectural value. The church nearby was built at the same time and renovated in 1741, with a Byzantine architecture and paintings. It also had fortress like features with strong doors and hidden places. The nearby chapel has been built later and has interesting neo-Byzantine paintings. In the last years, the whole complex has been completely restored and renovated, making it an interesting architecture of Targu Jiu attraction.
Administrative Palace of Targu Jiu
Initially built to house the city hall, the beautiful building is today the county administration. The Administration Palace of Targu Jiu is a relatively new construction, being built between 1898 and 1904, the final added piece being the outside clock. On the inside, the moor style council hall is truly impressive, while the exterior has an elegant façade and two side wings. The front of the palace opens up into Victory Square, the center of Targu Jiu. The building was recently renovated and embellished, giving it a much more pleasant exterior, with small palm trees brought during the summer.
City Hall of Targu Jiu
The city hall of Targu Jiu is located very close to Victory Square, with easy access from the center. It was built starting with 1932, its initial destination being an apprentice dorm. The city hall features a very interesting and attractive architecture, recently renovated and forming a homogenous complex with the other buildings of the city center.
Tudor Vladimirescu Street
Tudor Vladimirescu St. is the most fascinating street of Targu Jiu, preserving a large number of beautiful houses and buildings from the start of the 19th century. It creates a special atmosphere, travelers having the opportunity to see the architecture of Targu Jiu as it was a century ago. There are around a dozen monuments with exceptional architecture to be admired on this street.
Tudor Vladimirescu College
The impressive building of the Tudor Vladimirescu College is located in the busiest roundabout of Targu Jiu, close to the city center. Built between 1891 and 1894, it is one of the most imposing and impressive historical monuments of Targu Jiu. It has been extended over the years, but keeping the beautiful original architecture.
Barbu Ganescu House
It is located in Victory Square of Targu Jiu, adjacent to the Administration Palace. Built in the 18th century, it housed Constantin Brancusi in 1937-1938 when he stayed in Targu Jiu to create the “Heroes Path” Monumental Complex. In the courtyard, there are several sculptures, including the first version of the Table of Silence.
Statue of Constantin Brancusi
The history and spirit of Gorj County have been influenced by the artistic genius of Constantin Brancusi. The bust statue of the great sculptor was placed in the city center, on Traian St. The monument was created by sculptor Ion Irimescu in 1976 for when the city celebrated 100 years since the birth of the great artist.
Statue of Tudor Vladimirescu
The statue of Tudor Vladimirescu is located in the most important crossroad of Targu Jiu, in a small park at the intersection of Union and Republic Blvd. This was the spot that in 1821, the “panduri” (fighters from Oltenia) of Tudor met and continued the revolution. The monument is a beautiful bronze cast in Milan, being the oldest statue in Targu Jiu.
Mausoleum of Ecaterina Teodoroiu
Ecaterina Teodoroiu was a woman heroine of the First World War, born in Targu Jiu and serving bravely in the Romanian Army until her death. The monument is located in the center of Victory Square, marking the tomb created in 1921. Created by a female student of Brancusi, the monument is sculpted in white Italian travertine.
Other Monuments of Targu Jiu
The city offers many other attractions of architecture and art, old houses and buildings that can provide interesting tourist highlights. Among the most interesting, the Christian Tell Library building is located along the “Heroes Path”, the Vasile Moanga House was built in 1770 and hosted an important historical event, the Dimitrie Maldarescu House was built in the 18th century and is located on T.Vladimirescu St., while the Grigore Iunian House is located at 1st Republic Blvd. There are at least two dozen other houses and buildings in Targu Jiu that are listed as historical monuments. All these make the art and architecture of Targu Jiu an enticing travel discovery.
One of the oldest monasteries in Romania and definitely among the most fascinating sights of Gorj County, Polovragi Monastery is an exceptional byzantine style monument, a monastic complex located in a charming spot at the entrance of the impressive Oltet Gorges. With the sumptuous peaks of Parang Mountains in the background and the spectacular gorges and cave in the vicinity, the monastery makes for a perfect destination. It provides a wonderful journey into the past, representing the history of orthodoxy in these lands. An oasis of peace and spirituality, Polovragi Monastery has an important architectural and historical value. Polovragi Monastery is located in Polovragi village, about 50 km northeast of Targu Jiu. Access is fairly simple, following the 67 National Road up to Polovragi, then taking the left turn towards north and continuing through until the end of the village. The monastery is situated at the entrance of the gorges of Oltet River, right at the foot of the mountains. This setting is particularly fascinating, with the thin and tall opening of the gorges in the background, the distant snowy peaks of Parang Mountains and several enchanting natural protected areas in the vicinity.
The oldest historical research established the beginnings of Polovragi Monastery around 1505, built by several local noblemen. Although the information is scarce, the monastery appears for the first time in official documents in 1648, followed by the visit of archbishop Paul of Aleppo who confirms the existence of a large monastery in Wallachia. The third founder of the monastery was ruler Constantin Brancoveanu who bailed it from being subordinated to the Holy Tomb in 1763 and adding new constructions to the complex. During the Austrian rule over the region of Oltenia, Polovragi Monastery was transformed in a defensive fortification. The main church of the monastery is built in Byzantine style, with a proportional symmetry, the highlights including the exterior brick belt, the intricately ornate wooden iconostasis, the massive doors and the beautiful paintings that resemble the ones at Horezu Monastery, but also with unique features. The Polovragi Monastery also has a smaller church in the northern side of the complex, outside the strong walls. Built in 1732 and dedicated to Saint Nicholas, features exceptionally preserved frescoes in lively colors. The monastery also has a small museum with valuable religious artifacts and documents. Like many other monasteries of Oltenia and Wallachia, the one at Polovragi resembles a walled fortress, with strong walls protecting the inner area, including the two churches, the nuns living quarters and other buildings. Right behind the monastery, the entrance to the spectacular Oltet Gorges opens up with tall vertical ridges separated by only a few meters, making it one of the narrowest canyons in Romania and Europe. Above the gorge, on the eastern mountain plateau there was once a Dacian fortress that today is marked by a stone cross.
Constantin Brancusi Memorial House
One of the oldest
History Museum of Targu Jiu
The History Museum of Gorj County is located in the center of Targu Jiu, in a beautiful historical building on Geneva St. 8, very close to the “Heroes Path” Monumental Complex. Situated only 10 minutes away on foot from any of the Constantin Brancusi masterpieces and 5 minutes from the very center of the city, the museum is extremely accessible. The museum is open each day except Mondays, from 9 am to 5 pm. The idea to initiate a historical museum of the county began more than a century ago, under the influence of several important scientists and personalities. Alexandru Stefulescu, the historian that gave its name to the present-day museum, had begun a small collection of history of archaeology back in 1893. The founding document was established in 1894 and declared the purpose of the museum to research and gather historical facts and relics.
Initially, the collection was organized in two rooms of the Administration Palace of those times, the present headquarters of the museum, a beautiful building built between 1870 and 1875. While the original collections were small and scarce, it has expanded greatly over time, presenting valuable and interesting objects and documents. The location of the museum changed through time, the war and other events bringing losses and reorganizations. Eventually, the current building was established as the History section of the Gorj County Museum in 1981. The museum is organized on two levels and 12 rooms, each one with its own special theme and historical period. The well though and innovative display of the collections creates a visual and interactive experience, visitors being immersed in a perfectly reproduced world and time period. The first rooms present the ancient history of Gorj County, with a Stone Age room that contains a Homo Sapiens skull aged at 29,000 years discovered in Muierii Cave, an Iron and Bronze Age room, followed by the Dacian and Roman periods, with rich coins, ceramics, weapons and jewelry collections. Another room is dedicated to the old traditions and crafts of the inhabitants, as well as a room that displays religious history, with an old altar from the wooden churches of Gorj County. Other rooms include traditional art and costumes, important historical personalities, the Communist era, as well as contemporary history. The History Museum of Gorj County is among the most inciting and rewarding destinations, and although not as vast, it provides an amazing chance to discover the past of this place. Well organized and presented, the valuable collections and treasures of the museum shed light on the long history of Gorj County.
There are many wooden churches scattered throughout the villages of Gorj County, some of them hardly accessible, while others can be visited and admired with ease. A truly priceless cultural heritage element, these are mostly overlooked by both tourists and authorities, many being in poor condition. The majority of these wooden churches are located in the villages closer to the mountains, with a bigger density found in the settlements of Balanesti, Scoarta, Targu Carbunesti, Bumbesti Jiu, Crasna, Bengesti-Ciocadia, Lelesti, Pades, Pestisani, Tismana and others. Unfortunately, few of these are signaled or marked and access is difficult at times.
The wooden churches of Gorj County have been declared historical monuments for their immense value. Although each one might present little tourist attraction, viewed as a whole and part of tours and experiences, they can provide a deeper image into the authenticity of the destination. There are over a hundred beautiful wooden churches in Gorj County, many of the older villages still preserving their original church even though they also have new and larger ones. Their unique architecture and craftsmanship give a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle of the ancestors. Finding them might seem difficult as sometimes they are not even signed, but the local people will always have good directions. Dating as back as the 17th century, many of these churches feature impressive traditional architecture, amazing wood crafting prowess that attest to the ingenuity and innovation of their builders. Some still preserve original paintings and frescoes, old icons and valuable religious artifacts, while others are located in splendid natural locations. The wooden churches of Gorj County have been included in the 7 most endangered sites of Europe, together with the ones in neighboring counties. Many of them have been renovated and preserved, but there are also some in danger of being lost forever due to deprecation.
Other Monasteries and churches
The monastery of Crasna is located about 30 km from Targu Jiu, in the commune with the same name, the Crasna-Ungureni village. Visitors can reach it by following the 665 County Road that connects the settlements at the foot of the mountains in the western part of the county. The monastery is located just a hundred meters from the main road, in a beautiful natural setting with the Parang Mountains in the background. Crasna Monastery is attested in 1486 in an official document, its present church being finished in 1637. Built in a beautiful Byzantine style, it has been painted in mid-18th century. It has been restored by the Historical Monuments Commission between 1936 and 1938, when several new constructions were added under the supervision of Ghe. Tatarescu. The most valuable features and artifacts can be found inside the church, with one of the most beautiful wooden and gold iconostasis in the country and very impressive original paintings.
Close to Tismana Monastery, along an enchanting mountain path, visitors can reach the secluded hermitages of Cioclovina Mountain. These amazingly peaceful places are some of the most fascinating attractions of Gorj County, a testament to the determination and devotion of several nuns. Living in almost complete solitude, a visit is more of a spiritual than a tourist experience. Following the road north from Tismana Monastery, after a few kilometers travelers will see a sign marking the tourist path towards the Cioclovina Hermitages. Those brave enough to face the mountain for a few hours will be rewarded with idyllic landscapes and panoramas. The pleasant 5 km walk through the forest to Lower Cioclovina Hermitage will end up in a splendid clearing where a small church and several small buildings are surrounded by gardens and the peaceful woods. This hermitage hosts several nuns and was built around 1660. Following the same path up the mountain, the road is steeper and the 3 km take some physical resistance to complete. The reward is truly worth any effort, as the Upper Cioclovina Hermitage is located at the very top of the mountain, a breathtaking panorama opening up towards the surrounding mountains. A little church and a small shack where only a nun lives in solitude for most of the year reminds of the majestic monasteries of Meteora perched on rocky cliffs. These two hermitages have a special charm and offer an extremely insightful and rewarding experience to any traveler.
Saints Voivode Church
The main church of Targu Jiu, although not a cathedral per se, it is considered as such. Located in the middle of the central square of Targu Jiu, it dominates the landscape not as much through its size, but more by its beautiful features. Built in the 18th century, it has been known as the Merchant’s Church. It features a pleasant architectural style, the most interesting element being represented by the exterior paintings. Together with the usual saints of the Orthodox Church, there are also the images of ancient philosophers and scholars, an extremely rare element in religious art. It has been thoroughly restored over the years, representing one of the city highlights.
Saints Apostles Church
The beautiful church is located along the “Heroes Path” that crosses the city of Targu Jiu from west to east, connecting the monuments of Constantin Brancusi. The church is located about halfway between the park and the Endless Column, easily accessible on foot. It stands out on itself as an interesting tourist attraction, Brancusi considering its importance as part of the whole complex. It was built in the 20thcentury over an older one that used to be the most important before the construction of the cathedral church is the city center. Created by renowned architects and painted by the talented artist Iosif Keber, the “Saint Apostles” Church should not be missed by visitors of Targu Jiu.
Monastery of Targu Carbunesti
This monastery is located in the town of Targu-Carbunesti, about 25 km to the southeast of Targu Jiu. It is situated at 1.5 km northeast of the town center, with access from the 67B National Road. The Camaraseasca Monastery is attested in 1870, being founded by a local nobleman. Over the years, it has represented both a spiritual have, but also a refuge for the local people, with stories that tell about a tunnel that started in the church and ended on the other side of the river. Even the beautiful church has crenels for firing and special survival rooms, resembling more of a fortress. The name of the monastery comes from two heirs of the founder, who are buried inside the porch. Travelers can admire the splendid architecture of the church and the precious icons and paintings in the interior.
The new monastery of Visina is built close to the old one, today in ruins close to the small wooden church. It used to be one of the oldest monasteries in the whole of Romania, dated to the end of the 14th century, among its founders being famous rulers of Wallachia like Mircea the Old and Neagoe Basarab. The now small monastery is located in an impressive setting, guarding the entrance in the Jiu Defile, perched on a steep river bed. Access to the Visina Monastery is very facile from the E79 road, by crossing the small bridge over the Jiu River. All that remains of the old monastery are stone ruins from the church, other constructions falling into the river with time.
The monastery of Stramba is located in the village of Stramba-Jiu, part of the town of Turceni, about 50 km south of Targu Jiu. It can be visited by following the E79 Road south, then taking the road right after Cocoreni village and continuing south on the 674 road. The monastery was founded by the end of the 16th century over an older hermitage. Across the centuries, it has suffered much damage and was even deserted for many years. The renovation started with 1956, but sadly it has destroyed much of its architectural and artistic value. Nevertheless, the Stramba Monastery represents an interesting attraction with its strong architectural and historical value.
The hermitage of Locurele is located close to Tismana Monastery, up a mountain path that ascends for several kilometers on a nearby mountainside. The trip takes about 45-60 minutes and makes for a very pleasant hike, with exceptional views of the mountains and the Jiu Defile below. The hermitage is situated in a charming forest clearing, surrounded by the silence of the mountains. Two priests from Targu Jiu founded the hermitage in 1850-1852, following a dream they had. Throughout the years, it was deserted during the wars and the communist era, monastic life being revived starting with 2006. Since then, the church was also renovated and the whole site is truly enchanting.
Other Religious Attractions
Apart from the most important monasteries and the fascinating wooden churches of Gorj County, the destination also features other religious attractions. Although not as impressive or valuable as those featured above, these can make for interesting visits. Other monasteries of Gorj include Icoana-Carpinis (Crasna), Dealu Mare (Borascu) and Targu Logresti, while beautiful churches that have been declared historical monuments are spread throughout the villages and towns of the county.
Cula Houses of Gorj County
The monastery of Crasna is located about 30 km from Targu Jiu, in the commune with the
Other Monuments and Museums
The monastery of Crasna is located about 30 km from Targu Jiu, in the commune with the
Ethnnography of Gorj County
The people of Gorj County have always been renowned for their ingenuity and creativity, the best example being Constantin Brancusi. He was greatly inspired by the traditional woodcarving craftsmanship of the elder peasant masters; many motifs and symbols being used throughout his career. There were always people that were born with the talent of discerning the secrets of construction without any formal training. These were mostly determined by the ancestral needs and aspirations of the Romanian peasant. In Gorj County, there are some of the most beautiful rural architecture examples, with an infinite variety of carving and cutting techniques. Examples of this highly appraised traditional architecture can still be found in some villages of Gorj County, from wooden houses and churches to fountains and altars, all bearing the mark of talented craftsmen. Among the architectural elements that can still be admired in Gorj, there are beautiful shacks, houses, mansions, mills, churches, schools, stables, barns, cellars, gates and many others. A special category that is very interesting for its architecture is a combination of a house and a stronghold, the “cula” that is only found in the northern part of Oltenia region, including the territory of Gorj County.
Traditional Occupations and Handicrafts
Like many other spaces of Romania, Gorj County has been recognized over the years for its traditional handicrafts, some of them becoming more important and predominant. The exceptionally diverse and valuable traditional creation has been the work of some amazing craftsmen. Over the years, this destination has become famous for some traditional crafts, including woodcarving, pottery, church and icon painting, weaving and others. The wealth of forests and variety of trees has determined the development of a veritable wood civilization in Gorj, especially in the villages located at the foot of the Carpathians. Over time, the craftsmen have created a rich thesaurus of wooden buildings, churches and bridges, annexes and gates. Some woodcarving masters can still be found through the villages of Gorj County, although fewer every year. Another important craft is pottery, once very developed in this area, today only a handful of old masters remaining in the rural area. Highly appreciated, the pottery products of Gorj can still be found in some villages like Glogova, Galesoaia, Stroesti or Stefanesti. Gorj County has also given some exceptional church and icon painters, testament to the spirituality of the people after almost two millennia of Christianity. Many of the painted churches exhibit rural art traits, with lively colors and saints dressed in traditional costumes. One of the greatest church painters was Iosif Keber, also an architect, whose memorial house can be admired in Targu Jiu.
Authentic Traditions and Customs
The county is a space of rich and diverse traditions, with deep roots into its past. Gorj is one of the few regions of Romania where many traditions and customs are still being kept. Over centuries, older pagan traditions and Christian orthodox feasts have mixed to create an eventful calendar. Many of the authentic traditions have been lost, but many more still survive and offer a glimpse into the soul and spirituality of Gorj County. Most customs and traditions are linked to the Orthodox religious feasts and events of a year, the most important being Christmas, New Year and Easter, each with unique traditions.
The traditional costumes of Gorj County bear the marks of time, centuries adding or changing its characteristics according to various external factors. Nevertheless, the authentic costume of this destination is unique and impressive. In Romania, someone with a passion for the traditions will immediately recognize the region or county of people dressed in traditional clothes. The costumes are characterized by rich and lively colors, simple designs and elegant natural or geometric motifs. Nowadays, the best places to admire these costumes are museums and cultural events, although the elders of some villages still proudly wear them.
Traditional Songs and Dances
Gorj County has always been one of the best places in Romania to discover the traditional songs and dances, still very much loved by everyone. Some of the best folklore can still be found here, with exceptional artists that continue to preserve the authentic songs and dances. The famous group “Doina Gorjului” is considered among the best in the country and has presented the traditions of Gorj in the whole world. Watching and listening to these artists is a truly rewarding experience, one is able to feel the whole range of emotions expressed through songs and dances.
Hearty and delicious, the traditional gastronomy of Gorj County represents an important tourist highlight of the destination. With accents of specificity determined by the history and geography of the area, it also shares certain characteristics with most of southern Romania. Developed from simple and natural ingredients and from the ingenuity of the peasant, the recipes of today have created a fascinating cuisine. There are even certain special dishes that can only be sampled in Gorj County, making any meal a truly delightful gastronomic experience.
Bread has always been one of the main elements of any meal, often replaced in the past by mamaliga (a type of polenta) and turta or malai (made of raw corn flour baked in clay ovens). A wide variety of soups (ciorba) also stand at the base of the Gorj gastronomy with ingredients depending on the season (beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and others). Meat is another pillar of the cuisine, with pork and chicken as the stars. Each family grows pigs which are usually sacrificed before Christmas and each part is used in some type of dish (grilled, stewed, baked or smoked, sausages and other marvels). Milk and eggs are also often used in recipes.
Some of the most traditional dishes include sarmale (pickled cabbage leafs stuffed with a mix of meat, rice and vegetables) and piftia (pork pieces boiled and then cooled to form a gelatinous mix), mainly served together and cooked for special events. At fairs and special events, no grill is complete without the delicious mici or mititei (pork and beef or sheep minced meat with spices). From the dessert category, there are many cakes and sweets prepared traditionally, including the famous cozonac (a pastry filled with cocoa, walnuts, raisins and more, baked in ovens for special events). Wine and tuica (strong brandy from plums or cherry plums) are the most popular traditional drinks.